Pope Francis arrived on Tuesday at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, kicking off his first ever visit to the United States.
President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Second Lady Jill Biden were all there to greet him, in a rather unusual display pomp and circumstance at Andrews.
An excited crowd of Catholic dignitaries and local Catholic schoolchildren were also there to greet Francis. Waiting for the pope to step off his plane, the crowd erupted into cheers such as, “Ho ho, hey hey, we love Pope Francis every day!”
Earlier in the day, when asked about the warm welcome for Francis, White House Spokesman Josh Earnest explained, “Pope Francis, we have seen, has really struck a chord in people, not just across the United States, but around the world… He serves as a source of inspiration, not just for Catholics, but people of, frankly, all religions around the world.”
The rest of the first family — Malia and Sasha Obama, as well as Michelle Obama’s mother, Marian Robinson — were also on the tarmac at Andrews to welcome the pontiff. Two of the Biden’s grandchildren were also there, as were several Catholic officials.
Maryland’s DeMatha Catholic High School wind ensemble band was ready to greet Francis with some pop tunes and motown.
“It’s a big deal,” Waverly Harris, 15, said of playing percussion for the pope’s arrival. He lamented that the band only had, at most, four weeks to practice. “It’s a lot less time than what we have for any of our normal concerts — and to come out here for one of the world’s biggest leaders.”
The Vatican selected four children in first, third, fifth and seventh grades from different Catholic schools to greet the Holy Father, and one presented him flowers.
Francis is immediately traveling to the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, D.C., which is effectively the Vatican’s embassy. He has no other public events scheduled for Tuesday.